Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Anti-Christ(special) versus Responsibility. Are You?

I think the regular idea of the anti-Christ is pretty boring. I have a special version.

Also includes a short discussion about Anglophone anti-crime measures, including a second question, and references a study on framing.

My anti-Christ has exactly the same message as the original version; don't kill, don't steal, be nice, and so on. However, unlike the original, he not somewhat convincing, or very convincing, he is absolutely 100% convincing. It is physically impossible to argue with him and not to be convinced to be 100% moral for the rest of your life, in such a way that you absolutely never give into temptation.

He uses these magical persuasive skills to convince people to spread his message and let him convince everyone on Earth, dropping crime rates in every metropolis and every god-forsaken hole to zero. All wars cease. Trade flourishes, and everyone is just generally super-nice to everybody else.

The first downside is that he IS the anti-Christ. He tortures, he kills, he steals. In fact sometimes in the middle of (successfully) convincing a crowd not to kill, he whips out an uzi and starts gunning people down. "Furthermore killing hurts." B-B-B-B-B-B-B-B-BANG BANG BANG "See? It's not just terrible in the ways I've said before. Also..." He provides for himself entirely through theft. If he has to buy something, it's always with stolen money. If you offer him a donation he'll rip your arm off, beat you to death with it, then steal the money from your children. He is not just evil, he is infinitely hypocritical, and therefore infinitely evil. No matter how repugnant an act you imagine, he will one-down you and do something worse.

The second downside is that as soon as he dies, nobody will be 100% successful at convincing everyone to be moral. A new crop of brutal barbarians and criminals will grow up and go back at it as usual.

At first I used this to prove that hypocrisy cannot be evil per se. Evil, in my view, was evil, regardless of what you told others about it, and if you advocated not-evil, then that was inherently a good thing to do. Now that I have proved the opposite, it remains a proof that ad hominem is a fallacy.

Now I have a different question. A question of responsibility, of choosing who lives and who dies.

Assume you have the opportunity to kill the anti-Christ. He has injured himself, and as a surgeon, you could refuse to operate and he would simply bleed out and die.

If you don't, are you responsible for the death of the people he murders? If you do, are you responsible for the deaths that would not have otherwise occurred?

It sucks to be faced with that choice, even on a small scale. If you can kill (or, I suppose, let die) one fairly healthy but socially disrespected person to save Stephen Hawking, the littlest cancer patient, and Mother Theresa* with their organs, are you responsible?

*(Her perception, not her reality, which was grotesque.)

Certainly, in all cases, you're responsible in the sense that you are part of the causal chain of those deaths. Absent a surgeon, his murders cannot take place. Absent a surgeon who refuses to operate, all those war-deaths cannot occur.

Now, in the real world the answer is a lot easier, because you cannot fully predict the actions of human beings. For instance, if you leave your bike unlocked somewhere, absent a thief it cannot be stolen. This is the proof that rape victims cannot have been 'asking for it' because absent a rapist they could not have been raped. Leaving a bike, or even a million bucks, on a pedestal on a busy road, no matter how little security you put on it, doesn't make it not theft to take it. You did not agree to have it taken.* It is impossible to give license for evil. If you as surgeon operate on a real world criminal, it doesn't make you responsible for his future crimes, even though they would have been impossible without you. He could have repented, but didn't, a fact which is not your fault.

*(On the other hand, there are non-moral considerations. If you do this, yes it's theft to have it stolen, but expecting to keep it is just dumb. The cops should spend no effort tracking it down. I am uneasy about what this might mean regarding rape, but the upshot is that you should always provide yourself with security, to whatever degree is necessary to reasonably ensure security. Going to the cops after a rape is much much worse than being able to stop it yourself. Which I guess means cops a very last resort, as security goes, and should never be relied upon.)

This option is not available for the anti-Christ. He is by definition infinite evil, and will never repent. He is more like a natural disaster than a person. But the question still applies, and without all these real-world distractions, I can actually analyze moral theory to see if its consistent.


From various places, most recently this;

"Framing effects were first explored by Tversky and Kahneman (1981). In a famous experiment, they asked some subjects this question:

Imagine that the U.S. is preparing for an outbreak of an unusual Asian disease which is expected to kill 600 people. Two alternative programs to fight the disease, A and B, have been proposed. Assume that the exact scientific estimates of the consequences of the programs are as follows: If program A is adopted, 200 people will be saved. If program B is adopted, there is a 1/3 probability that 600 people will be saved, and a 2/3 probability that no people will be saved. Which program would you choose?

The same story was told to a second group of subjects, but these subjects had to choose between these programs:

If program C is adopted, 400 people will die. If program D is adopted, there is a 1/3 probability that nobody will die and a 2/3 probability that 600 will die.

It should be obvious that programs A and C are equivalent, as are programs B and D. However, 72% of the subjects who chose between A and B favored A, but only 22% of the subjects who chose between C and D favored C. More generally, subjects were risk-averse when results were described in positive terms (such as “lives saved”) but risk-seeking when results were described in negative terms (such as “lives lost” or “deaths”)."
They have completely neglected this idea. In the first, option B (possibly)* makes you responsible for 200 deaths, where option A has no possibility of this. In the second, C makes you (possibly) reponsible for 400 deaths, whereas D isn't really clear.

*(Depends directly on the answer to this question.)

To see this, take no option. All 600 people die. Option A definitly saves 200, whereas B possibly doesn't. Taking no option in the second scenario is not possible; the framing is such that you might save everyone, but option C makes you directly responsible (possibly) for 400 deaths. It suggests that your treatment is somehow killing people, and that others are just fortunately immune, though if you think about it this can't be the case.

Shockingly, people answer these questions differently! While there is other research to back up the idea that people are risk-averse, including my own personal experience, this particular experiment is at best neutral on the question.

(Incidentally, this illustrates why philosophy is so important. In real life, responsibility is far from clear in many similar situations. Ambiguity begets uncertainty which allows the unscrupulous to steer the application of responsibility to their own ends. Any examples you can think of would be welcome.)

But originally I bring this up to illustrate the hideous choice. I'm going to slightly modify it; in no scenario do you save everyone. You choice is definitely saving 200, or killing everyone or saving 500. (To make it perfect, I would also have to modify the probabilities.) You know in advance which 200 will be saved, and it's different than the 500 who will be saved; half of the 200 will die. It is not statistical as is the assumption in epidemiology; you know for certain. Along with this you can find out any other information you want about the 600 people in question.

So, do you risk the lives of those 200 people for a chance at saving half of them plus another 400 people? Or do you sacrifice the possible lives of 400 people for the sake of definite lives of 200?

How do you decide who lives, and who dies?


Hopefully your answer also solves this apparent inconsistency; my intuition is that you're still not responsible for the anti-Christ, either way. (Of course you should let him live, regardless.)

However, in all situations where it's not who lives versus who dies, you are responsible. Going back to my comment about how cops should be last-line defense against crime, nobody in our society is doing the medical analogy of first line; preventing criminals from forming the first place, analogous to not eating carcinogens or avoiding mosquitoes in malaria areas. (The second line being vaccines, which prevent disease even after exposure, the third being early-stage treatment, like chemo on a tumour, and the fourth and final, analogous to cops, is full-blown surgery.)

I think that we are resopnsible for the crimes that are committed because nobody is doing first-line defence. I think that makes us, as Anglophone society, evil, and the longer we don't the more crimes were are responsible for. It's difficult to pin down responsibility to the exact individuals, because life is messy, but the fact remains that somebody is responsible. I think that we are responsible for crimes that occur because very few people are doing second-line defence, making crime difficult to pull off at all. And finally, we are responsible for the crimes that occur because our third-line defences tend to either empower or victimize our young criminals, rather than doing much of anything that might result in them being less criminal.

But actually, the reason I bring this up is that despite the lack of these defences, I have never personally witnessed a crime, nor has anyone I know personally been a victim. (Wait! That's not strictly true. My bike's back wheel was stolen once. This was, however, as the bikes above, mostly my fault. It's a bike and I totally don't think it counts.) I have heard of a couple of burglaries third-hand, but those were parts of a series of burglaries that just increase the likelihood of being caught.

Something
is doing first-line defence, but it's not being done intentionally by anybody; the expertise doesn't exist, so it's impossible. I want to know what it is, because it's like we already had such an anti-Christ, who did convince lots of people not to commit crimes. If so, then it would be highly advantageous to expand this first-line defence. With just this, it may even be possible to entirely replace the State.

9 comments:

James Andrix said...

Something is doing first-line defence, but it's not being done intentionally by anybody; the expertise doesn't exist, so it's impossible

Ummm, Parenting?

Coincidentally, I've been subjected to 3 attempted muggings since I started talking to you.

Alrenous said...

Now, are you intentionally implying that I somehow cause muggings, or are you usually subject to a high frequency of muggings?

Second, clearly your 'parenting' isn't working in your area. Since I seriously doubt the parenting is any better here, that pretty much wraps it up for that possibility.

Certainly, parents don't want their kids to be criminal. They don't, however, have any idea how to accomplish this.

James Andrix said...

Now, are you intentionally implying that I somehow cause muggings, or are you usually subject to a high frequency of muggings?

Neither, though I do live in a high crime area. If you did cause muggings, that would be a neat trick. :-)

Certainly, parents don't want their kids to be criminal. They don't, however, have any idea how to accomplish this.

I would say some do and some don't. Those that do might not know how they know, or what it is they are doing that is working.

As usual, science is on the case.

Alrenous said...

While parenting practices are among the strongest predictors of juvenile delinquency identified in the criminological literature, the process by which parenting influences adult crime has not been well documented.

Even science doesn't know.

Yes, some parenting practises are better at reducing depression and 'anger,' whatever that means,* exactly. What we don't know is which practises are which, nor why this is so.

*(Are they suggesting that those attempted muggings won't have made you angry if you had good parents? It seems they are.)

It's just luck. Science doesn't know which ones, the parents don't know which ones, they just happen to hit on the right method sometimes.

We don't even know if it's robust, because it's not like criminals are always from criminal dynasties,* nor are law-abiding families immune to producing black sheep.

*(That would make law enforcement a lot easier, even if you change 'always' to 'often.')

It appears that seemingly small variations on parenting technique produce large changes in criminality.

Moreover, considering the number of 'good kids' that suddenly turn to drugs in high school, it appears that whatever good parenting is, the public education system is the antidote. Our society as a whole is fostering criminals, not the opposite.

Yet the procedure for avoiding crime isn't get the cops or live in a fortress. It's similar to first-line defence; don't live in high-crime areas.

This isn't a real solution, though, since if we forcibly moved everyone into low-crime areas, we will have moved the criminals as well, making them medium-crime areas.

James Andrix said...

I don't think they're necessarily saying that good parenting reduces anger. They say tha anger, identity, and depression mediate criminality. Those are casual interconnects thay have identified, but that doesn't mean the relationship was simple.

I was angry, but I did not commit a crime as a result. My upbringing (to switch to a slightly more borad term than parenting) my upbringing
largely determines how I react to anger today.

You seem to be assuming that because we have a situation that resembles a partial but perfect moralizer, we have to be looking for a partial but perfect moralizer. Why doesn't the situation of one or more imperfect but widespread moralizers qualify as first line defense?

Our society as a whole is fostering criminals, not the opposite.

Well naturally, it is capitalist. What do you expect?

Yet the procedure for avoiding crime isn't get the cops or live in a fortress. It's similar to first-line defence; don't live in high-crime areas.

Do you mean second line? The muggers are already there, if I moved away, they may very well mug other people.

Alrenous said...

Well naturally, it is capitalist. What do you expect?

You should probably drop every notion you have of what capitalism is, then, since capitalism is neither moral nor immoral.

It's a bit pointless to talk about capitalism anyway. It's not well defined.

The free market is well defined; it's what you get when you leave people alone, whatever that happens to be. And since not leaving people alone is pretty well a definition of violence...

Then I find that violence is immorality, regardless of what capitalism is or isn't.

Do you mean second line? The muggers are already there, if I moved away, they may very well mug other people.

Yes, I would assume they'd mug other people. But that's precisely the point; second line prevents harm. A second line defence would thwart the muggers, not simply avoid them. Since you called them 'attempted' I would say you're successfully employing a second-line defence. Congrats, if so. A third line would be to catch the muggers after one or two offences and convince them to stop. Fourth line is to imprison or kill them outright.

Or something like that. The categories were and are spur of the moment.

I was angry, but I did not commit a crime as a result. My upbringing (to switch to a slightly more borad term than parenting) my upbringing
largely determines how I react to anger today.


Certainly makes sense. But absent the actual text of the report,* I can't say they support it. I'm skeptical. From what I've read elsewhere, the consensus is that depression=crime and more anger = more crime. (Specifically there's at threshold, your anger can be -this- high and no higher.)

*(Which, despite being paid for with what's supposed to be my money, I can't read. Well, more likely your money, as I expect they're American.)

Regarding moralizers.

I'm not sure exactly what I'm looking for. All I know is that there clearly isn't an intentional method for reducing crime apart from cops, either officially or socially.

Crime does pay, so there's incentive. In every other situation, like for instance our corporations, incentive plus opportunity equals action. So I'm detecting either hidden counter-incentives or hidden opportunity-breakers.

It would be nice if there were a moralizer, imperfect or otherwise. I would really like to organize a society based on the fact that most people are good. I cannot assume this is the case, however.

James Andrix said...

The free market is well defined; it's what you get when you leave people alone, whatever that happens to be.

So attacking people and invading their homes because they do not pay rent is a violation of the free market?

Are we justified in defending ourselves from people who poison us?

(Specifically there's at threshold, your anger can be -this- high and no higher.)

Well another issue in this is how easily people get angry. I was angry enough to want to do violence, another person might get that angry over something more trivial, AND not react with a lot of self control.

I would say that both how angry you get about a mistaken food order and how you deal with that anger are influenced by your upbringing.

All I know is that there clearly isn't an intentional method for reducing crime apart from cops, either officially or socially.

Socialization.
I don't know why you think there isn't a method. Does it have to be a kit or a book or something: "This is how you reduce crime." It isn't a set down, standalone thing, but it IS very often intentional.

Tutoring at-risk youth probably prevents much crime, but it isn't directly about crime.

So I'm detecting either hidden counter-incentives or hidden opportunity-breakers.

Well, morality should count as a counter-incentive, because it is a part of what we want. "What does it profit a man..."

Alrenous said...

So attacking people and invading their homes because they do not pay rent is a violation of the free market?

If I had any chance of changing your mind I might give you the answer.

This is just aggression, not a question, and it's sickening.

James Andrix said...

I was Using your terms as you defined them.

It is not my fault your ideas don't hold up to basic scrutiny.

Actually, I take that back. Your ideas might stand up to scrutiny, if they were competently defended.

But when you say that the free market is leaving people alone, and then get sickened that I point out that the rest of your beliefs are not simply about 'leaving people alone'... Then you're just not defending, or even presenting, your ideas competently.

You've got to pull in a whole lot of other theory before kicking people out of a house for not paying rent is 'leaving people alone'. Now all THAT might constitute your definition of a free market. If you're going to slap a feel-good definition on something, then you have to accept that things that aren't feel-good won't fit it.

Parallel: The christian who tells me that god has already forgiven me unconditionally, and defines forgiveness as not holding sin against me and forgetting the sin. It sounds great, but it completely breaks the idea that I might go to hell.
Christianity is a lot more defensible than that, but not if you don't bite some bullets.